And a Partridge in a Pear Tree….

On Saturday, December 6th, North Face gave to me….

Six days of rain…
Five aid stations…
Four course changes…
Three washed out trails…
Two course sweepers…
One adventure on the trails

In all seriousness, What. A. Day.  Really.  In retrospect, I should have known.  Either the six days of rain, or the four course changes that came down yesterday and today should have been my first clue.  If not that, then the no more than an hour of sleep I got last night (stupid stress) or the pepto I was choking down at 3:30am.

But, I figured the course updates would make it easier and I didnt have to do my least favorite trails.  And I figured the lack of sleep and sick were due to nerves.  I went to bed early all week in preparation, so I actually wasnt completely exhausted race morning.

We were up at three and out the door by 3:45.  Out the door and into the pouring rain…what a nightmare this is going to be…can’t it be a dry nightmare?  We were parked and shuttled by 4:45.  The nerves were back, so luckily I was able to make a pit stop at the visitor’s center bathroom – can you say auto-flush toilet?  Delicacy in the wilderness.

The race started shortly after we arrived, luckily, there was no rain in Marin.  After a couple of announcements, including another course change, we were off.  Dean Karnazes was just inside the start line, he patted my shoulder and said, “yeah, go get it”.  At that point, I felt great…I was going to own this race.

The first ten miles were pretty uneventful…some running, some walking, some run/walking.  I felt great, and was a half mile to a mile ahead of my goal pace.  Then I got to the end of the second loop and stopped at the aid station.  And, something just felt off.  I thought it was the ankle brace throwing off my body mechanics, and made a mental note to pull it off when I changed my socks at the next aid station.

After a climb up Miwok and a descent into Tennessee Valley, where we were suddenly overrun by 50k runners, I was at the next aid station where Glenn and Adrienne were waiting to crew with clean socks.  I saw my friend Toby running the 50k shortly before I reached my crew.  I also ditched the ankle brace and my headlamp…but for some reason I was insistent on keeping it with me. Perhaps I was already delirious. Nonetheless, I headed out towards Pirates Cove at a run/walk. That lasted about a mile before I was just walking….it seemed as if my stomach chose that moment to say, “yeah…about those nerves…it’s not nerves”.  And “you should walk, or bad things will happen”.  Awesome, taken down by the one thing you can’t plan for.

The lone other 50 miler chose that moment to tell me that the sweepers were right behind us, even though we were way ahead of the cutoff time. So, I took a breath, continued up the hill, and tried to chat with the 50k runner next to me. Who told me what a great day it was and how he had changed his race from the marathon, cause what’s five extra miles?  A little too peppy for someone trying to talk their stomach down.

I got to the top quicker than I thought I would, and still ahead of my goal. But, then I met Pirates Cove, which can be sketchy on a good day. After almost a week of rain, it was a mud bath. Think slip and slide minus the pool at the end. Well, there was a cliff and the ocean was past it, so maybe it was the same. I was pretty sure I was going to fly off the cliff and into the ocean. At one point, I decided to take the grass on the side rather than the mud, tried to crawl across a rock and end up falling. Great.  Whatever was hurting in my knee just got worse.

At that point, the sweepers let me know that they were there if I needed anything, but not to worry, I had plenty of time. I told them I was having a rough day, but was going to walk it out. I also started thinking about what plan b was going to be. At that point, I figured I would either make it to Stinson Beach and stop there, or see if I could turn at the 50k and finish the race with them. Not what I wanted, but better than not finishing at all.

I decided to press on and see what happened. The sweepers were nice and alternated between checking on me and keeping me company. I heard at one point via a radio that I had gotten too slow, so I power walked as best I could – out of muir beach, on to redwood creek trail, over to heather cutoff. Which is where the craziness began….picture this – washed out trail, think a river running down it – nearly single track trail, with people going up and down.  Suddenly, the hills I didnt think would be a huge deal to run/walk up and jog down were a mud-filled nightmare.

Going up the hill, there were mid/back of the pack 50kers….and two 50 milers that I hiked past.  No matter what happened, I was no longer last.  I cautiously proceeded up the switch-backs with a group of 50kers….occasionally grabbing on to one another as we jumped out of the way for the in-it-to-win it 50 milers and fast 50kers came down the hill at mach 50.  Really guys?  The leaders passed by several hours ago – I promise, you wont catch them.  Can you slow down so we can all get through the mud bath safely?  At this point, I had lost my sweeper friends to two of the guys I passed.

Shortly into Heather Cutoff, the first trail, a guy came flying down the switch-back above, had zero traction on the curve, and flew off the trail, off the hill, into the brush below.  We all held our breath as he climbed out of the bushes, righted himself, held up his hands and said, “I’m good”.  One of the ladies in our group called out, “sir, you have just won the race’.  Countless slips, slides, and crashes later, we were moved on to Coastal trail.

Now, Coastal is a similar trail, but more exposed, so I hoped in better condition.  However, after 1000 people run up and down a wet trail, it’s a mess no matter what.  But this trail brought an added challenge – bikes!  Now, really, who rides their bike down a hill through several feet of mud….and a race course.  Apparently several people…including a dad and a kid. Really?  You couldnt find a trail without 1000 people on it to ride on today?  We continued our journey up the hill, at some point I stepped in what I’ll call pot holes and ended up in ankle deep mud.  awesome….I think at some point in all of that, I ran into my friend Toby again and Dr. Hal, both on their way down.

Finally, I get to Cardiac…with time to spare.  Decision time.  A- see if I could quickly change out of my soaked socks, grab a sandwich, cross my fingers, and see if I could make it to the next cutoff….or B – realize it wasnt my day, see if I could change my race, head back down the hill and have a chance to finish a race, even if it wasnt the one I wanted.  I had been thinking about it for awhile, and had decided to go with option b.  I couldnt control the fact that I had to have pepto for breakfast and not much else since then, but what I could control was my reaction to it.

I had some PB&J and water, and looked around for someone to ask about changing races.  The aid station captain didnt seem to know, and was too busy force feeding M&M’s and telling a 50 miler who was on his way back down that he wasn’t allowed to quit because he was tired.  One of the sweepers from earlier found me at the aid station…”there you are!  we completely lost you…we stopped with the other guys and then you were just gone.”  A testament to my training that even feeling awful I can still hike myself up a hill just fine.  He helped me find the right person to switch my race, so I found my drop bag and changed out of my wet shirt and singlet into dry ones, and took the dry socks out and stashed them in my pack for a change at Muir Beach, and was on my way.

Going down was just as much of an adventure as going up.  I had a guy pass me who was fiddling with his coat and ipod, holding a water-bottle, and navigating the mud.  I watched him slish and slosh from left to right and knew it was only a matter of time.  A couple more sloshes and down he went.  I asked if he was ok, he told me he was, just shouldnt mess with his stuff while running.  Yeah…probably a good idea.  As I made my way down, I started to think that if these were the trails deemed safe for 1000 people to go up and down, I dont want to see the ones that were unsafe…

I got down and back to Muir Beach, thankful for the aid station.  The people there were so friendly – they helped me get my gross shoes off so I could change my socks and gave me chicken broth since they thought I was cold, and helped me wash my hands.  After that, I was ready to go up one of the toughest climbs on the course.  My game plan…just keep moving (looking at the stats afterwords, I did get my third best time going up that set of hills.  Haha.

About halfway up the hills, Ksenya (who was going to pace me from Stinson, where I never made it to) and Adrienne my other running buddy yelled up the hill to me.  So exciting to have friends to share the journey with!  It didnt take them too long to catch up, and it made the time down to Tennessee Valley pass pretty quickly.  At TV, I got to see the rest of the crew, but I wanted to keep moving, so headed up Marincello after grabbing another PB&J.  It was great to have Ksenya to share the journey with (Adrienne had to move her car at TV).  She kept me going, and before I knew it, we were near the finish line.  I was able to run the last few feet through the finish line and go hang out with my crew.  

All things said and done, I got in a 50k (+ ended up being 37 miles)….I went further than I ever have before…I crossed the finish line.  And yesterday, that was enough.  Today, I wish I could have made the 50 happen, but there will be other races.  Either this one next year…or another before then, since I think I was supposed to do something before the 100 miler.  We’ll see….Thank you to the sweepers, for helping me salvage something out of what could have been a disaster of a day.  Huge thanks to our crew, pacers, and friends that came out to the event – could not have done it without you.  And congrats to Brian, who had a great 50 mile race!

Coyote Ridge 50k(ish) Race Report

So it was a day of the three times I thought about quitting and the one time I didnt…

The first was just before the .9 mile mark, coming through pirate’s cove the wrong way (well, according to me…it’s just different than how I usually do it).  I rolled my ankle, and it was pretty sore.  I spent sometime walking it out, and just decided to get to the aid station in Tennessee Valley, and reassess.  I got there, and it was actually feeling ok.  So, I continued up Marincello, and out towards the Bonita Cove turn around.  Such beautiful views along the way.

The second time was around mile 10, and I was feeling pretty good…I was actually ahead of the pace I wanted, legs felt good, and I was running down a gentle slope towards bunker road.  I got to the road, and didnt see any pink ribbons.  I looked down the road, across the road, and still didnt see anything.  The course had been really well marked, so I couldnt believe that there wouldnt be ribbons here….come to think of it, I couldnt remember the last time I saw a ribbon.  I knew where I was…..I just didnt know where the course went.  And of course it was the one area I didnt know very well.  But, I did know that the trail across the street would meet up with Miwok, which would take me to Old Springs, which is how I was supposed to get back to Tennessee Valley.  I confirmed with a cyclist, and was on my way…kind of like choose your own adventure, except it was choose your own course.  And really, who doesnt love an unnecessary climb up a hill over a mile long….

I got back down to Tennessee Valley and let them know what happened – I didnt really care about the distance, let’s be honest, it’s not like I was in it to win it or I had cut enough of the mileage to impact how I would finish.  But, I was concerned that there was some sort of check-in at the Point Bonita aid station, and they’d send out the emergency crews to find me if I didnt check in.  Of course, they had no idea if anyone was checking…just that they were not checking.  But I could ask when I got back to Muir Beach.

Then came the hot, slow, hike up Fox Trail…really slow.  Ugh…but, at that point, after rolling an ankle and getting lost, I was really just trying to get mileage in.  Hopefully I can work on the pace for the next two months and still be ok for North Face.

After Fox Trail came the long, steep, descent into Muir Beach…..pretty terrifying for some reason.  I’m not sure if I’ve always been afraid of that descent, or if this is a new development.  It got better towards the end, and I was able to run out to the bridge and across it, over to the aid station.  I asked the volunteer who was helping me about checking in at the aid station I missed….she didnt know either, but said I could work with the race director to figure out the distance when I was done.  I told her I wasnt as worried about that (my watch would give me the distance), I was more worried about being reported missing.

Then, began the long climb up and out of Muir Beach, and the reverse trek through Pirate’s Cove….and it was so hot…ugh.  There were three of us, and we all kept stopping and taking breaks.  But, one foot in front of the other does the trick, and I was on my way down into Tennessee Valley again.  The last time I thought about quitting would have been somewhere in Pirate’s Cove, when I realized that was technically another turn-around point.

But, I decided the miles were more important, and after a sandwich and a ton of liquids, began making my way up Marincello, around some random airport thing, and down a steep descent to Old Springs trail.  I felt pretty good on Old Springs and decided to jog….until I tripped down a step, and rolled my ankle again…..ok, maybe no jogging.  And then a second trip up Fox Trail….just as tough since I was tired, but it was far cooler and there was a bit of a breeze.  The trip back down into Muir beach seemed less treacherous the second time around, and I feel like I was able to run more of it.  Before I knew it, I was down and dodging people as I crossed the bridge to the finish line…..the time I didnt quit….

I had some water and animal crackers at the finish line, followed by a beer (amazing…), and hung out with the people there for a bit, before walking the mile and a half back to the car.  I opted for that instead of the shuttle since I lost some distance when I messed up the course.

And, now I’m enjoying a really bad horror movie and my favorite owl beer while my body contemplates exactly what I did to it today.  Though, I was able to enjoy some dinner, so I think I did better with the hydration since the roof of my mouth doesnt feel like sandpaper.  Other than that, I’ll be reevaluating the rest of my training plan….maybe look to spend an equal amount of time getting better at what I’m already good at and trying to get better at the stuff I’m not….and do some more long runs….

Weekend of Running

I realized somewhere around Wednesday that this weekend would be a weekend of running.  Ugh…or maybe yay…I don’t know. I like running, but I also like relaxing. Haha.

Saturday’s adventure was a run through the headlands. Well, I’ll use the term run loosely….it was pretty much doomed from the beginning.  I forgot my watch….I didn’t have a route planned, and looking back, I’m pretty sure I was dehydrated for some reason.   So, I decided to explore somewhere new….ended up going up a big hill, then down some random trails that didn’t really go anywhere. Just down….so I had to go back up. Good times. And while exploring was fun, it wasn’t that much fun without a watch or any idea if the trails were good or not. And it was hot.  Knowing I still needed to get mileage in, I decide to run to the end of a flat trail that runs along the road and maybe run out to Tennessee beach after.

However, at the end of that trail, I ran into another runner who asked me where I was going. I told him I didn’t know, and he suggested a trail across the street – ‘beautiful trail, meets marincello, and there’s really only one steep/hiking part at the top.  Or….there’s lots of stairs, steep, and sun.  And when I got to the top, marincello was nowhere in site….nor was any trail I knew would get me there. Awesome…thanks runner dude.  I wandered for a bit trying to find something, but at that point I was pretty dehydrated and feeling awful, so I decided to head back the way I came.

After some Gatorade and relaxing on the couch Saturday night, I was ready to think about tackling day two of running.  There wasn’t much to prepare, but I did prepare more than I have in the past.  Really, I just made sure I had clothes, shoes, and my race bib in some sort of order.  Though, I did arrive at the start line with a gu and my phone, and really no place to put either one. I didn’t sleep well, but for some reason was up with time to spare…..spent more time relaxing on the couch before we had to leave.

At the starting line, I ran into my friend Debbie and her friend Hans – our yearly second half SFM reunion.  Always great to see her, even if it was only for a few minutes. I also met a lady who was running with about 10 helium balloons tied to the back of her top.  Still wondering how that worked out for her. At about mile three, I ran into my friend Maya from work….somehow, we always find each other at these races, even amongst thousands of people.

The first eight or so miles felt alright….I think I had a decent pace going when I could. There were a lot of people, and in a bunch of places, it was pretty difficult to zig and zag around people. Oh well, pretty typical of the park at the start. The first few miles outside the park were ok too, despite that it was starting to get hot. I grabbed a gu at the gu stop in the haight, by that point, I had started to feel a little off, and wasn’t sure if I was hungry.  I had also eaten my gu back in the park and didn’t really like not having one on me.

I passed Brian and the SB cheer squad coming up the big hill in the mission, he looked like he was having fun cheering everyone on with a bell and a wig.  After that, I couldn’t tell if I was overusing my abs or if my stomach was cramping….not so much fun and definitely slowed me down. I took it slow the rest of the way, but still ran at least some of it. In the last bit to the finish line, I saw a guy down by AT&T park….between that and the guy down at the finish line, it brought back the sad memories about the guy that died at the kaiser half a few years ago.  Luckily, I think both of these guys were ok….maybe just dehydrated.

I got to the finish, not as fast as I had hoped, but not bad all things considered. Ksenya got some good photos of me coming in, so that was fun. They gave me boxed water at the finish line, interesting and a little different, and unfortunately, I was so thirsty and trying to drink quickly, I ended up wearing most of it. I got my medal and a few bites of a blueberry muffin, then headed out to meet Brian and our friends.

Post race, we headed to Barney’s where I consumed my weight in milkshake, chicken pesto sandwich, and curly fries…..amazingly delicious. I’m definitely more stiff than I thought I would be, so I’ve spent the rest of the afternoon napping on and off on the couch, watching bad movies, and contemplating how exactly I’m going to run 30 miles in a few weeks.  Granted, ultra training is completely different than a road race, but still….yikes.  Hopefully after some rest and maybe some wine and hopefully a successful 20 miler next weekend, I’ll feel better about it.

North Face Endurance Challenge

So, let me preface this with the fact/thought that I should have done a training run (or six) that were longer than 15 miles.  But, I do what I can.  And, I was able to finish and have a great time doing so.  That being said, race report…

The start line was a pretty cool experience.  It was cold and somewhat windy, but they had heat lamps and fire pits going, which was a nice touch and made the cold bearable. There was also a welcome tent of sorts that had coffee and hot water and snacks (and more heaters).  I thought that was really nice, and not something I’ve seen at a race before.  I was nervous about drinking coffee before running, since I didn’t know how it would affect my stomach. But, one of the volunteers offered me a cup of hot water to hold, which was a great help with the cold.  While we were in the tent, we looked at the course maps and Brian talked me through the flow of the marathon. While we had run or hiked most of the course, we hadn’t done it all at once.  A couple of other runners joined us and we chatted through the course with them too.  The hour or so we spent there went pretty quickly, and was overall low key.  By the time we started the race, the nerves I had about not finishing had been replaced with the thrill of another adventure.

The course was a kind of figure 8 with a couple of loops.  The first loop went from the start line near the visitor’s center at the headlands, up miwok hill, then down the back side into the Tennessee valley, up marincello hill, over to bob cat and altar before dropping back near the start.  The first hill climb was tough, especially on my calves, especially so early in the race.  But the decent into Tennessee valley was fabulous. I ran all of it, despite the run walk I usually do.  The only drawback was the rude runner with the headphones who yelled at me once I started running after a walk break….I’m not sure why.  Maybe she thought I didn’t want her to pass me?  Whatever, wasn’t going to ruin my day.  Coming into the Tennessee valley, I said good morning to a couple of guys tending a stable, had my photo taken, and ran into our friend, Drew.  He said hello, I told him I was feeling good, and he said, ‘great! Now you get to run up the big ass hill’.  Haha….I think I told him I had just come down one.

The next part of the course began like the first, but after going up miwok a second time (ugh), we made a different turn at  Tennessee valley and headed out toward pirate’s cove and muir beach.  This was when I started to get the Fun song, ‘put one foot in front of the other….lalalala’ stuck in my head. It remained there for most of the rest of the day. I met two other runners on the second trip up miwok.  Up until that point, I felt like I was pretty much in no man’s land. They thought they were lost, but since I had talked through the course that morning, I reassured them we were on track.  Pat was from Connecticut and Holly was from LA.  It was nice to have some people to chat with on our trip up the hill.  However, I lost holly on the way up the hill.  But, I did trade off position with Pat until we hit Pirate’s cove.  This was the one part of the course that was on pavement.  It was also where we started to see 50k runners coming back. I looked out for my friend Toby, who was running the 50k, but he was way ahead of me.  This was also a fairly easy portion to run….or run walk in my case.

The next part of the course went through pirate’s cove, out to muir beach, and then back to the Tennessee valley.  That was by far the most difficult part of the course.  I think the hill up to pirate’s cove was pretty rough, but quite honestly, I don’t remember it.  I remember the descent was pretty scary.  At one point, I stopped to dig a stone out of my shoe, mad had my feet fly out from under me. Luckily, they crashed on to the next step, and I was able to remain upright. Thank god for small favors.  The course between pirate’s cove and muir beach was pretty, but also pretty rough. It was a single track up hill, followed by a steep descent to the beach. Of course, it was an out and back, so all I could think was – I can’t wait to run back out if this. There was an aid station at the turn around, for those do us that turned around. If you’re me, you keep going and over run the turn.  Haha…luckily, I noticed the pink ribbon course markers had disappeared and I asked a volunteer, who turned me around, and I was back at the aid station shortly.

My friend Ed was working the aid station and gave me some water and electrolytes, as well as some Mountain Dew, which I hadn’t had since college, but was amazing at mile 15.  He asked how I was feeling, and I’m pretty sure I told him I had muscles I forgot I had hurting.  Then I finished my stretch break, grabbed some pretzels, had another drink, and took off.  I saw Pat on the way back, gave him a high five and told him we were getting it done.  I also saw Holly, she had hurt her knee and was glad the aid station was only half a mile away.  And, that’s where the course got ugly. After climbing the rollers out of muir beach, there was another never ending hill.  It felt like miles. Luckily, at this point there were plenty of people on the course since the 50 mile runners were on the same course. Most said hello as they jogged by me, and it was great to hear some friendly voices – even if they were running twice as far….

Upon returning to the Tennessee valley, I was glad to see the rest stop, and stopped to grab some more Mountain Dew and a pb&j.  I don’t think it’s ever tasted so good. I also overheard a pacer asking where he could meet his 50 mile runner.  So, of course the wheels started turning, and as much pain as I was in, I wanted to train better and do that one next year.  From the rest stop, we headed up marincello for the second time (ugh), but I knew what to expect, and I love the alta and rodeo trails.  And after that, less than a mile to the finish. And my Fun song about one foot in front of the other was back. Going up marincello, I walked by a couple of other runners, and was able to say hello.  It was nice to have some friendly faces through the final miles. Hitting the rest stop at the top of altar was nice too…great to see the friendly volunteers and have another mini sandwich and soda.

Coming out of the flat end of the rodeo trail, a volunteer at the last water stop let me know I had less than a mile to go, and offered me any last minute aid items.  I knew I was close, and didn’t want to stop moving, so I thanked her and told her I was good. Then, despite the finish being just across the
street and up a small hill, I started singing my song from the Honolulu marathon….’this is the race that never ends’. Approaching the finish line, there was a lady cheering, who told me to run like I was Black Friday shopping. Haha….then I entered the finish line chute, and heard Brian and our friend, Drew, cheering for me. The announcer got my name from Brian and said, ‘we’re all cheering for you, Kim’.

And, like that, it was over.  Am I thrilled with my time, not really.  Am I happy I finished, definitely.  It was my first trail marathon, and my first marathon in at least two years, and I didn’t train.  But, wow…so much fun.  As much as I knew I would be sore, and as sore as I am right now, I can’t wait to sign up for the 50 mile next year.  And train for it….that too.

 In other news, I had my last team meeting for school ever today. So exciting and surreal…

Berkeley half

So the race was good – well organized and plenty of water. Sadly, an anomaly for an inaugural event. But, this one had it pretty much together. The course was flat, net downhill, with a short, steep hill at the end. The start and sweat check were well organized, and there’s always good people watching. What people choose to wear for these things is always entertaining to see….costumes, glitter skirts, back packs full of water and food, people wearing the race shirt at the race….and me….in whatever happened to be the first running clothes I found. At least I didn’t have brand new shoes for this one…or drink a bunch of saki the night before.  Haha. I also tried running gloves…..bright blue ones. Went great with the light/off blue shirt I had on. Classy…. But anyway, I digress….the start line was the start line….20 minutes after the official start (yeah wave four), I was off….

The first four miles were pretty cool – wound through Berkeley, somewhere I haven’t spent much time, so it was cool to see.  Mostly downhill, with a little flat.  On our way out of town, mile four or so, my left calf or Achilles tightened…..it’s still sore now.  Hopefully this is not an issue for north face in a few weeks.

Miles four through thirteen were ok, flat and everything, but pretty boring.
Ran along side the highway to emeryville, looped around, ran back…..looped around again…and again.  Ended up on so e gravel path that I don’t think was meant to be a path….looped around again.

Final three miles…at this point, my Achilles was really tight, despite stretching multiple times and my hip flexors started to tighten too. This is not goi g to bode well for north face. But, I was on the path to the finish….or not…loop around again…and finally, we were on our way.  There was some guy yelling that we were almost there and that we had this….the hill at the end had nothing on us….there’s a hill AT&T he end??  This is supposed to be flat…..but, we were on the final straight. Or so we thought. First, we had to wind through a parking lot – think Disney world lines. Couldn’t we have done an extra block or two in Berkeley?  After we made our way through the Disney line, we were finally on our way.  Just, up the now giant looking hill, and down the other side of it to the quietest finish line ever. Funny that we could hear it across the water, but not over the hill.

So, 2:27 overall.  Not my best time, but also not my worst. Not bad for having about half as much time to train as I wanted.  Someday I will have more time…someday.  Crossed the line, got my medal, and then a special medal because I did the SF half in June. Then, into some warm clothes and off to lunch and an amazing post race nap.

We have the football game on, and they keep showing random boston scenes. It makes me smile…and  reflect on my time there. Looking back at, I realize how young I really was and how crazy most of what I did was.  They showed Quincy market….oh Quincy market….I think I spent my birthday there one year.  I know we spent Fourth of July there….and many a mapping session for gap. And the random times I worked in the store there….and how they were the only ones to call and check if I was ok after the protest. And dunkin donuts, how I miss dunkin donuts. I’m pretty sure I ate a lot of it outside the t stop there hahaha….

So, for now I will relax, watch the football game, and enjoy the random boston scenes they’re showing. Happy thanksgiving week. Over and out…..